S4 Courses

S4 affiliated faculty offer a wide range of graduate courses in spatial thinking, research applications, and spatial analysis. These courses can be combined in different ways to meet the needs of students in different disciplines. Below are listed many of these courses and also some suggested sequences of courses. These could be of value to students in any S4-supported discipline in the social sciences, health sciences, or humanities, particularly those who intend to include a major emphasis on spatial questions in their dissertations. For specific course offerings per semester, students should consult respective listings in Courses@Brown.

Foundational courses

SOC 1340.  Principles and Methods of Geographic Information Systems. Kevin Mwenda, normally offered annually. This course introduces students to the tools, techniques and underlying theories that comprise Geographic Information Systems (GIS). 

SOC 2610. Spatial Thinking in the Social Sciences. John Logan, normally offered every other year. This course provides an overview of applications of spatial analysis across the social sciences with an emphasis on how spatial concepts are understood and used.

SOC 2612. GIS and Spatial Analysis for the Social Sciences. Kevin Mwenda, normally offered every other year. Introductory, graduate-level course focusing on spatial analysis methods and applications in the social sciences.

PHP 2015. Foundations of Spatial Analysis in Public Health.  William Goedel, normally offered annually. Graduate-level course focusing on spatial analysis methods and applications in public health.

Note: S4 organizes the GIS Institute, a two-week GIS training workshop for Brown University graduate students, faculty, and staff, normally offered twice annually. For some students the GIS Institute provides a sufficient introduction to GIS and spatial methods, but we highly recommend the semester-long courses for most students.

Advanced courses in spatial methods

SOC 2960G. Spatial Data Analysis Techniques for the Social Sciences.  Jennifer Candipan, normally offered every other year. Survey course of statistical methods that can be used to analyze spatial and/or clustered data at the individual and aggregate levels. Topics include multilevel analysis; fixed effects approaches; spatial choice; spatial autocorrelation, heterogeneity and dependence. Application with real data. Not a course about Geographic Information Systems (GIS) or mapping techniques.

SOC 2961A. Advanced Spatial Data Analysis Techniques for the Social Sciences. Staff.  Normally offered every other year. Builds upon 2960G, and broadens the topics covered to the analysis of dynamic (space-time) phenomena as well as models for discrete dependent variables.

SOC 2961B. Applications in GIS. Kevin Mwenda, normally taught every other year. Intermediate GIS and spatial analysis course.

PHP 2604. Statistical Methods for Spatial Data. Staff,  normally offered every other year. An introduction to the use of Bayesian models for spatial analysis, accessible to students with extensive statistical background.

ANTH 2202. Advanced GIS and Spatial Analysis. Parker VanValkenburgh, normally offered every other year. This course develops students’ skills in GIS and spatial analysis beyond those taught in Anthropology 1201 or other introductory GIS courses, with the goal of facilitating advanced, independent research. The course begins with a rapid review of data models, spatial data management, and thematic mapping, which is designed to quickly bring students with less formal GIS training up to speed. We then move on suitability modeling, network analysis, intermediate spatial statistics, and scripting, with a focus on developing competencies across multiple software platforms, including QGIS, ArcGIS Pro and R. 

GEOL 2330. Advanced Remote Sensing and Geographical Information Systems. Jack Mustard, normally taught every other year. Strategies and the physical principles behind the quantitative extraction of geophysical and biophysical measurements from remotely sensed data. Advanced methods of digital image processing and data integration. Introduction to GIS and methods of integrating remotely sensed data into a GIS.

Disciplinary offerings

EEPS 1320. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Applications . Staff. An introduction to basic geographic information system (GIS) concepts, and the utilization and application of geospatial data for analysis. Topics will include data structures and management, coordinate systems and projections, data creation, obtaining spatial data from outside sources, georeferencing and address-matching, model building and batch geoprocessing, and performing fundamental spatial analysis techniques such as overlay, extraction, and interpolation, viewsheds, and hot spot analysis among others. Concepts are presented via online videos (Canvas) and put into practice through weekly hands-on laboratory exercises utilizing the GIS software product ArcGIS 10.x and ArcGIS Pro (ESRI, Inc.). Two presentations by each student are required - a case study, and an original research project employing the methods learned. A public poster session on the original research project culminates the term. If unable to pre-register, a wait list will be used to fill openings on a first come, first serve basis.

ECON 2860. Comparative Development. Stelios Michalopoulos. Weighing the shadow of history on contemporary economic performance occupies an increasing part of the agenda among growth and development economists. This course will focus on recent contributions in the literature of the historical determinants of comparative development paying particular attention on how to integrate the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the research inquiry. The goal is to get you thinking about the big historical processes that have shaped the modern world. We will go over background concepts, critically review recent works and talk about new research designs, like that of spatial regression discontinuity.​

URBN 1934. The Just City (Installment II): Crossroads and Congregations​. Rebecca Louise Carter. The second installment in a series on “the just city,” this course focuses on the exploration of critical “crossroads” and “congregations” -- exploring the spatial imaginaries of injustice found across the urban landscape and working to uncover the specific routes, intersections, and sites of convergence activated in its necessary transformation. Students learn from a range of materials including scholarly articles and essays, contemporary ethnographies, films, and applied reports. Students will also gain experience in fieldwork (spatial analysis, participant observation, urban design) as they trace these processes locally, with Providence and its environs as a primary site.​ 

AMST 2220B. Culture, Politics and the Metropolitan-Built Environment. Sandy Zipp, normally offered every other year. A historically and culturally oriented overview of changes over time in the structure of the U.S. metropolis.

ANTH 1201. An Introduction to GIS and Spatial Analysis for Anthropologists and Archaeologists. Parker VanValkenburgh, normally offered annually, open to undergraduate and graduate students. Introduction to the concepts, techniques, and the histories that motivate geographic information systems and their employment in anthropological and archaeological scholarship.

ANTH 2201. Archaeology in the Digital Age. Parker VanValkenburgh, normally offered annually. In the 21st Century, digital tools are as integral to archaeological research as the trowel and the field notebook. This course combines essential training in digital archaeology with critical discussions of how digital methods are impacting the conceptual dimensions of archaeological research. Topics include topographic survey, GNSS, tablet-based recording systems, database design, digital photogrammetry, and intermediate level archaeological GIS. Demonstrated proficiency in ArcGIS or open-sourced GIS software (the equivalent of an introductory course, preferably Anthropology 1201) and previous archaeological field experience are prerequisites.

ANTH 2590. Space, Power, and Politics. Parker VanValkenburgh. This course critically examines the politics of space and landscape from an interdisciplinary perspective. After reading key texts in political philosophy and cultural geography, we explore themes in recent scholarship including the spatial production of sovereignty, capital, and political subjectivity and the evolving role of digital cartography in public culture and politics. Case studies are drawn from archaeology, art history, ethnography, cultural geography, and history.

ECON 2410. Urbanization. Matt Turner, normally offered every other year. Advanced land use theory, sources of productivity advantages of size and density, systems of cities and New Economic Geography models.

GEOL 1320. Introduction to Geographic Information Systems for Environmental Applications. Staff, normally offered annually. An introduction to basic Geographic Information System (GIS) concepts, and the utilization and application of geospatial data for analysis. Concepts are presented via online videos (Canvas) and put into practice through weekly hands-on laboratory exercises utilizing the ArcGIS software.

LACA 1504O. Re-thinking Latin American Geographies through Social Mapping. Geronimo Barrera de la Torre, normally offered annually. An introduction to key themes and design practices in social cartography in Latin America.

MPA 2710. GIS and Public policy. James Lucht, normally offered annually. An introduction to the theory and practice of social science Geographic Information Systems (GIS) as applied to public policy analysis. Topics covered include the geographical basis of policy issues, spatial mapping, and use of ArcGIS software to study a wide range of policy issues.

PHP 2325. Place Matters: Exploring Community-Level Contexts on Health Behaviors, Outcomes and Disparities. Akila Keita, normally offered every other year. Theories and findings related to the effects of local environments on health outcomes.

SOC 1871W. Geographical Analysis of Society. Staff, normally offered every other year. Covers theories/concepts and related analytical tools that facilitate understanding of spatial organization of individuals, societies, and economies.

SOC 1873G. The Geography of Urban Inequality. Jennifer Candipan, normally offered every other year. This course examines the social and economic forces driving spatial patterns of urban inequality in metropolitan neighborhoods in the United States.

SOC 2960C. Urban Sociology. John Logan, normally offered every other year. This course introduces the analysis of urban development as a social and political process, where space and place are important at multiple scales: neighborhoods, cities, regions, nations.

SOC 2960R. Urbanization in a Global System. John Logan, normally offered every other year. This course covers similar material as 2960C but in an explicitly comparative framework and emphasis on the international and national systems within which cities are embedded.